Monday, May 12, 2014

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Becker Rev 1

Name: Jessica Becker
Genre: YA Paranormal
Title: The Body Thief

I never should have left the house. I debated this even as I sat shivering on one of the stone-cold benches planted along the perimeter of the fair. I ticked off the reasons in my head. Summer project for school. Babysitting my cousin Hazel. The bodies of dead girls that kept showing up on new moon nights.

Needless to say, this last fact changed the very atmosphere of the fair itself. There were less people here than normal, or at least less females. The truth though: no one knew why teenaged girls tended to die on this night. They weren’t murdered or anything. That would have been easier to understand. The girls just dropped dead. Not violently. Not painfully. Just gone. It could happen at home or while waiting for coffee at The Shack. But whenever you heard a story about eleven girls dying in your town, you tended to think about it. And I did. A lot.

In the end, Hazel convinced me to take her to the fair. No amount of card playing or cookie bribes could deter her. She argued that her mom would be closer in case something did happen and that rides and fried ice cream were the perfect distraction. I guess I agreed with her. A little.

It was the last weekend of July and too cold to be considered summer. The fair emerged within the large parking lot in front of Ojai Valley high school. Trees separated us from the main road, but I still had a clear view of the bell tower on the other side. Rows of white tents lined one side of the rectangle with food trucks parked opposite. Roller coasters creaked and whirred around bends and loops. I loved the fair. I loved the food on sticks and games no one ever really won, and the way people raced from one ride to the next. I loved the smell of barbecue and spun sugar intermingled with the sticky sweetness of everything fried. I even loved the awful music pouring from the house of mirrors.

My best friend, Jai Bennet, glanced in my direction with a smirk. He wasn’t fazed by the new moon stories. Jai, who chased creepy stories to thrill some weird fascination. He liked to be scared.

“You okay, Callie?” He asked in his too-concerned voice as he sorted our ride tickets.

I nodded.

“Then stop looking like that,” he said.

I snagged a piece of funnel cake I held balanced on my knees. “Like what?”

“Like you’re going to puke. Like the whole world is about to explode.”

“I’m not.” I fiddled with the ring around my thumb, and watched the reflection of the strung lights flicker in the puddles on the street. Food wrappers littered the ground.

“You’re sitting there like a lump. I thought this was your favorite weekend?”

“Shut up. I’m fine.” I glanced at the clock. The minutes pressed forward. My aunt would close up her tent in the next hour and shepherd us all home. She’d tell us stories of all the people that sought her advice, making her work seem important. For the first time ever, I welcomed my curfew.

Hazel cozied into my shoulder, watching me closely. She probably sensed my restlessness. Hazel wasn’t like other ten year olds. She carried this seriousness within her and rarely spoke. She used big words and read books I could never finish. And she often stared at me like one of her books, like I was some story she was meant to discover.

“Think we’ll know her?” I asked Jai. I didn’t look at him. I didn’t want him to see the worry in my eyes.

“It’s not even going to happen.”

“Don’t tell me you’re like every other person that thinks it’s a coincidence.” I said coincidence like it tasted sour in my mouth.

His eyes lit up. “Just stop. Nothing’s going to happen.”

I smirked.

He nudged me in the side.

Maybe he was right. Maybe I worried for nothing. But it would happen somewhere. And how could it be stopped if no one ever saw it coming?

A girl with dark hair and skin the color of bleached parchment sidled up next to Jai. I turned away as she touched his shoulder in a familiar way. Jai laughed and said something into her ear. It could be her.

Hell, it could be me. Well, it could if my skin lightened a couple of shades. And my eyes would have to change color. Most of the girls had blue eyes and mine were decidedly mixed. One brown and one blue. Still.

The girl faced me and raised her eyebrows in recognition. “Oh, you were Raven’s sister, right?” Were. Past tense. As in no longer. Now I was just sister-less. The word pinged inside my head like an annoying reminder. The girl paid no attention. It was just a word after all. Raven’s sister. Even dead, she was my identifying feature.

Jai glanced in my direction with a worried frown. He looked almost as if she struck him. The mention of Raven would forever haunt him no matter how much time passed. He didn’t need to hear her name to remember, he had his silver hooked scar on his cheek for that. It faded to almost nothing in the last year. Almost.

I bit my lip and tried not to think of her. I tried not to think of how she fell asleep while driving. I tried not to think of her crumpled car. And I especially tried not to think that she died exactly one month before all this weirdness started. Funny thing though: as soon as you tried not to think of something, then it stuck around for an uncomfortably long time. Like the one time I tried to stop biting my nails. It didn’t work that time either. So, I did what I did best—I avoided eye contact and looked up. I swallowed the knot in my throat and counted to ten.

The girl prattled on and on, and it wasn’t until she said goodbye that I realized I hadn’t heard a word.

“Hey, Callie?” I could tell he had been saying my name for a while by the way his eyebrows pinched together. He pulled a handful of change from his pocket and shook it in his hand like dice. “Want to go on a ride or something? Or get some more food?” He turned towards the row of food trucks lining the street. Teriyaki beef sticks, corn dogs, brisket sandwiches, fried onion blossoms, chocolate covered bacon…

Hazel leaned forward. Her sandy hair fell over her shoulder, matching her hazel eyes completely. She was tanned like a bottle of honey and dotted with freckles across her nose. “I should take Hazel back to my aunt,” I said.

“Do you want me to come with?” He asked. “Winnie said she’d read my palm for five bucks.”

“I just saw someone go into her tent. You should eat or whatever.”

“Alright. I’ll be right back then.” Jai smiled and in this light, the scar on his face bloomed silver. He spun on his heel, an almost graceful move considering his height. Jai was freakishly tall. Between that and his aquamarine t-shirt, he made it easy to spot him in the crowds.

Out of the silence, Hazel asked, “Do you see anything?” She pressed her chubby hand into mine and gave a gentle squeeze.


  1. Stupid Gmail! I didn't do anything different than the last time. Please ignore the horrible formatting, I will fix for next week.

  2. Hi Jessica,
    I really enjoyed reading this. The items that gave me pause before have been addressed making this a smoother read through. And the voice of the MC comes through well.

    I don't really have anything to offer :-)

  3. I love what you’ve done with this revision. Love.

    Now when Callie asks Jai, “Think we’ll know her?” shouldn’t it be “one of them” or something to make it clear that it’s more than one girl dying and they could possibly be friends with or know of more than one of them?

    I see what you’re going for but keep working on it, regarding the "A girl with dark hair and skin the color of bleached parchment” description.

    Can the fair also still happen because the deaths are somehow being covered up? I ask because where are these "stories" everyone's hearing about generating from? Local journalists? Police? Angry families of those who've died? Curious people who have nothing better to do than trade theories? Which of these stories/sources matter most to your MC?

    Think about possibly cutting the “Like the one time I tried to stop biting my nails” bit. It’s unnecessary, I think. We’ve all been there so an example, this one in particular seems unnecessary unless this habit of hers comes back up in another part of the book.

    Again, I want to stress how awesome this revision is, your story is and always was. This is great.

    Also, this concept kind of reminds me a little bit of 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma and Taken by Erin Bowman and the vibe of another book that escapes me. Point is, you’re in good company!

  4. I love the beginning of this and your revision only makes it stronger.

    “Don’t tell me you’re like every other person that thinks it’s a coincidence.” I said coincidence like it tasted sour in my mouth.
    Maybe add " around : "coincidence" like it tasted sour in my mouth.

    This is me being picky: Jai glanced in my direction with a worried frown. He looked almost as if she struck him.

    Could become: Jai glanced in my direction, looking as if she had struck him.
    Only because if she had struck him would he be worried? Or would he be more shocked or uncomfortable? This isn't really an issue, if you like the way it's done, you should keep it!

    Finally, I love this line : He pulled a handful of change from his pocket and shook it in his hand like dice.

    Great imagery while also bringing us closer to understanding Jai as a character.

    Thank you for sharing. I wish I could read more. :)

  5. Jessica, you made some excellent changes here! You added more sensory details. You added that the fair was less crowded than normal. You also added more details about the girls who died...not murdered...very intriguing.

    A couple of things stood out to me:

    She mentions the girls didn't die "painfully." How would she know this? Perhaps witnesses said the girls' faces were peaceful? Not scrunched up in pain? That would make sense. Otherwise Callie wouldn't know because the story is in her pov.

    "fair emerged" ... emerged doesn't quite fit. Was it erected in the parking lot? Would that work better? Emerged doesn't seem right but I can't think of a perfect alternative.

    Jai smirks when he speaks to Callie, but the smirk doesn't fit well. Especially later, when he reacts to Raven's name. The smirk made me think he doesn't care, or he thinks Callie is being silly.

    Can't wait to see what you do with it! Excellent revision

  6. Great revision, I really enjoyed the clarity on what happened to Raven and Jai's scar. It was enough to leave me wondering about more detail while still feeling satisfied that I knew the story.

    I think I'm curious about the relationship between the dead girls and Callie's sister, as you mention the deaths began around the time of Raven's death. I wasn't sure if this was on purpose or not, but it did make me wonder if they were connected at all.

    Overall the voice in this piece is great. I also agree with Julie, it would be difficult to tell how the girls felt when they died. Other than that I think you do a great job sticking with the POV.

    Looking forward to seeing this piece again!